Exposure to greenery could add up to 2.5 years to your life, according to a new study published by Science Advances.
By comparing neighborhood greenness with the biological ages of residents, the study uncovered racial and socio-economic disparities in its findings. For each participant, the study compared blood DNA, race, and 20-year exposure to green space.
“Our study shows that being near green space caused some biological or molecular changes that can be detected in our blood,” the study's principal investigator Lifang Hou toldThe Washington Post.
The study found that the average association with epigenetic aging and greenery was an additional 2.5 years. Participants of lower socio-economic statuses, especially black participants, generally had a less aging benefits from greenery, suggesting that more studies should be conducted to determine additional factors.
Previous studies have already suggested that tree cover is positively associated with average household incomes in city neighborhoods. A recent study published by PLOS ONE revealed that low-income blocks had an average of 15.2 percent less tree cover, and were 1.5 degrees Celsius hotter than high-income blocks. The study suggests that a $17.6 billion investment in tree planting would be needed to alleviate the tree cover disparity.
In 2021, conservation organization American Forests launched Tree Equity Score (TES), a nationwide tally of equitable tree cover, hoping to identify cities where additional tree coverage is needed most. Combining socioeconomic status, tree cover, and other factors, TES found alarming disparities between communities of color and whiter communities.
"The findings confirm a disturbing pattern of inequitable distribution of trees that has deprived many communities of color of the health and other benefits that sufficient tree cover can deliver. Neighborhoods with a majority of people of color have 33 percent less tree canopy on average than majority white communities," American Forests wrote.
American Forests proposed that increasing tree equity has significant benefits, including cooler temperatures, economic stimulation, and climate change mitigation. They also aim to increase tree-planting in cities, which would improve the health of residents.
“We need to make sure the trees go where the people are,” said Jad Daley, CEO of American Forests. “More than 70 percent of the people live in cities or suburbs so, it’s a place-based problem with a place-based solution."